“Fuck the revolution,” said the good pink poet in the Reading Room. “I hate Mao Tse Tung. His literary criticism is the worst of the New Criticism, worse than Alan Tate. Politics, Marxist ideology, capitalism, all just bad poetry, made-up pictures. A hysterical composition by the police blaming outside agitators or conspirators for what’s wrong is like a second-rate poem. The planet’s finished.”
Jimmy would knock some sense into the great poet’s pate with one of the green and brass library lamps that punctuated the reading tables. He would tell him how Kaddish moved him to tears. He would ask him whose side was he on anyway. He would tell him Howl was great non-fiction. He would re-brain him with that copy of Capital up there if it wasn’t already in the hands of a man on a ladder.
He knew the man in green pants, sandy hair, and two-dimensional physique. And there was the volume by Ostravanyan, whoever he still might be. He looked down at his Frye boots, which were being painted by someone 34 years in the future. A blurry emptiness occupied the near corner of the room. He feared if he peered in, Bill Montenegro would be hanging there. He wondered who he was — had been — to Black Mountain Bill. More than a kid, an admirer. Why me? Did he know something about me I did not?
The creature seated opposite across the polished wood had to be Dwight, true-to-death. Its jaw moved, lobster-like, in a blackened carapace.
— Wi-ee, he said, porcelain eyes floating in their bony cups.
— What? whispered Jimmy.
— Whihlee, said Dwight.
—Wheelee? If he reached for him with those petrified fists on which were growing, oh god, eyebrows, he would run.
— It’s ee. Eee. Dwight.”
— I know.
— You know. You’re Whihlee.”
— I’m not Wheelie, Dwight. Wihlee. Willy?”
Dwight nodded his skull. — Wihlee’s dead. A mouth does not need lips to say dead clearly.
— I’m not dead, Dwight. I’m Jimmy. O’Shea. Not Willy.
— Like Wihlee. Now. You saw hin.”
— When, Dwight?” It helped to call him Dwight.
— Induction Center.”
— The kid who looked like me?”
— Yes. Dwight tried to smile but there was nothing with which. — Aye est rend Wihlee.
There was no not looking at Dwight.
— Why me?
— Like to like. Sane praherties. Kung to Redding, hleeze.
— Redding, California, Dwight?
When he nodded, Dwight’s head moved and his eyes stayed still.
— You’re from Redding? said Jimmy.
— Yes. Ona luz you.
— Ona luz me?
Dwight drew a figure in the air with his two magma clumps. The gesture was simple. Fists together, then looped apart upward and down to a point together.
— Ona loves me. And I’m?
— Aye est rend Wihlee. Like.
— Dwight,” said Jimmy, “are you dead?
— Yes, Ayng sorry.
— But you don’t hurt.
— Psychologically, I think.
— I’m really not Willy, Dwight, your, your what?
— Est rend.”
— Est rend. Friend. I’m Jimmy O’Shea. I’d shake hands but.
— Hleeze kunh to Redding. We need you.
— You and Ona.”
— And Lake.”
Don’t ask what lake.
The green man holding Capital aloft on the ladder had not moved, would never. Was that what Black Mountain Bill saw before he painted himself out: the unmoving mural of his life? Say goodbye to the guys. And Jimmy O’Shea. His brutal homage. God let me waken. Wake.